Mid-Week Mid-Boss News Report 02.18.04

Not much of an intro this week because I need to actually get the column DONE this time instead of making excuses. Besides, not much else to say. I got Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles and Metroid: Zero Mission, both of which I’ll probably give a full review on next week or so. This week I have an Einhander review to do, that I should have done ages ago but was too busy (lazy) to do. Work is good. My foot is still messed up. And Valentine’s Day was great. Tax money is good, especially when you can pay off one of your credit cards with it. And I’ve almost paid off my computer, 3 and a half years later. Hey, it’s like an extra $100 every month. Too bad it’ll be going to some OTHER bills. Damn you creditors! Why did you have to give me such high credit lines!

Anyway, that’s about it with me, so I’ll spare you any more details and let you read the real news.

UPDATE: Yes the column is late. I sent it in on time, but due to technical errors, it wasn’t able to be posted. This shouldn’t happen again.


Gaming News

Pre-Order Deals on Lineage II and City of Heroes
The American branch of NCSoft has announced their preorder campaign for their two big releases in the near future. For the unaware, NCSoft is the company that Lord British himself, Richard Garriott, now works for.

If you preorder Lineage II, the sequel to the world’s most popular MMORPG, you will receive collectible trading cards, the Lineage II soundtrack, and an opportunity to participate in the Lineage II beta test. City of Heroes, which is a superhero MMOG, comes with an in game power and a digital comic book. Personally, the Lineage II offer is much better, and I don’t think the City of Heroes deal will sell much more than would normally preorder the game. Still, both games sound very interesting, and anything Garriott puts himself behind is something worth taking notice of.
Credit: RPGFan

Squenix Trademark
This one is a quickie, but the news is slim pickings this week. Square Enix has registered a new trademark in America. The trademark is simply “Samurai Legend”. Of course, nothing else is known at this time.
Credit: RPGFan

Men of Valor Details
I know first person shooters aren’t really something I talk about much, but I’ve been getting hooked on them more and more lately. Add to that the fact that there is a high quality up and coming FPS company right down the street from me, and I’m gonna give out some FPS loving.

Men of Valor is a game by 2015, who is best known for Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Apparently the focus on World War II has passed, and more companies are making Vietnam games, like EA’s Battlefield: Vietnam. Men of Valor looks to be a pretty good game from what I can see. The graphics look good, especially considering it’s an Xbox game, and it should be released later this year. Check the link below for some screenshots and a concept image, as well as an interview with producer John Whitmore.
Credit: Team Xbox

Mythica Cancelled
Not too long after threats of lawsuits, Microsoft has decided to cancel their Nordic based MMORPG, Mythica. They were going to be sued by Mythic Entertainment, who also makes MMORPGs. It’s bad that people may very well be losing their job over this, but in many cases, it’s foolish to get into the business of making MMORPGs if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are currently many MMORPGs out there that people play, with many more on the way, and in many cases, you need either name recognition or a hook of some sorts to get people to play. Games like Worlds of Warcraft and Everquest 2 have name recognition, City of Heroes has a hook, and Turbine Entertainment’s next big releases, Middle Earth Online and D&D Online have both. Unfortunately, Mythica had neither, and I’ll give Microsoft credit for cutting their losses before the game was released, and very likely met disaster. With so many of these types of games (and FPS games for that matter), you have to be sure that you’ve got something special on your hands, or else it will be a failure.
Credit: Gamespot


Christian’s Crazy Game Releases

Keep in mind, these are ship dates and are not set in stone. Game companies LOVE to push stuff back at the last minute, so don’t blame us if it’s not right. Also, since it is a ship date, it may take several days to arrive at your favorite store, depending on what it is, so please call before rushing over to pick up a game that may or may not have arrived.

Feb 17
MX Unleashed (P2)

Feb 18
Disney’s Aladdin (GBA)
James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (GC, P2, XB)
Pitfall (GC, GBA, P2, XB)
Rise to Honor (P2)
World Soccer Winning Eleven 7 International (P2)

Feb 20
Lupin the 3rd (P2)
Silent Scope Complete (XB)

Release dates courtesy of Christian at Game Crazy. February MVP Event! The hottest games are coming in 2004: Gran Turismo 4, Grand Theft Auto, Halo 2, Half Life 2, Metal Gear Solid 3 plus many more! So MVP Members, come in today to Feb.22 and receive a free gift with your pre-order! Limit 1 per MVP Member. See your local Game Crazy for details!

Christian’s Comments: A great week full of excellent releases. This week there’s a tie for the top spot and they couldn’t be more different. Bond and Winning Eleven 7. For the first time, Bond looks like you’re playing a Bond movie, right down the famous singer doing the opening song. With driving levels by the Need For Speed group, this one’s gonna fly! A little more niche, but just as good is the new Winning Eleven. Even if you hate soccer you owe it to yourself to at least rent it.

Lee’s Comments: None of these releases really excite me a whole lot. Winning Eleven IS the world’s most popular soccer game though, so it’d be worth looking into if you like soccer. Rise to Honor is the game that Jet Li is in, but I don’t think that equates into a good game. I haven’t heard anything else about it though, so what do I know? This week is definitely ho hum compared to last week.


Video Game Review
Before I start the review, I want to thank Christian once again for sending me this game. Even though I am a Square whore, this is a game that I may not have ever played otherwise. So thanks Christian!

EINHANDER
Genre: Shooter (Horizontal Scrolling)
Platform: Playstation
ESRB Rating: Everyone (Animated Violence)
Publisher: Squaresoft
Release Date: 04/30/98

Chances are, if you’ve played games over the past few years, you’ve heard of Squaresoft. Almost everyone has heard of the Final Fantasy series, and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of Kingdom Hearts, the Mana series, or the Chrono series. Squaresoft is known for making RPGs, but what will happen when they make a shooting game, something that they had yet to tackle? Other games they have tackled outside their particular forte (Ehrgeiz, a fighting game, and Driving Emotion Type S, a driving game) have met with failure, so how did they fare with Einhander?

Story
Hundreds of years into the future, a lunar colony named Selene tries to become independent of Earth, only to spark a war that causes a lot of hardship on both sides. Eventually, both sides of the conflict are unable to continue, so they stop fighting without actually declaring peace, and leave each other alone for a time. Years later, Selene is running out of resources that can only be found on Earth, and thus begins another war, only this time, Selene has a secret weapon: powerful prototype fighters that they send on suicide missions to Earth. They built 3 more fighters and there is only one mission left, and you are the pilot.

Really, the story isn’t THAT spectacular, but it’s by no means generic. They gave it a fair amount of depth, especially considering what type of game it is. But as with most shooters, the story simply isn’t important. Once you hit that start button and begin playing, it really doesn’t matter a whole lot. Despite that, it’s a good, unique story.
Rating: 7.0

Graphics
Since this game was developed 6 years ago, I can’t even compare it to current games, but despite that, the graphics are very good for its time. Then again, it’s Square we’re talking about here. The game is entirely 3D, which is something I had never seen in a side-scroller up until this point. The only problem is that to PROVE that it’s 3D, the angle will occasionally switch to a somewhat different angle, which can make battle more difficult to tell where you are aiming, but it’s not that big of a detraction since it happens so rarely.
Rating: 8.5

Sound
The music in the game is another aspect that was really well handled. All the music is perfectly fitting with the area you are in and definitely add to the mood. It’s often upbeat, but will slow at times, which adds to suspense, making you wonder what’s coming up next. The sound effects in the game are good, but not great. Then again, it’s pretty much what you’d expect in a shooter: the sound of guns firing and the sound of stuff blowing up. No complaints with it, really.
Rating: 8.5

Control
Here is what really makes this game unique. Many shooters will start you out with a standard weapon, to which you can gain powerups as you progress. With Einhander, you do start out with a standard weapon, but rather than get regular powerups, you get gunpods, which attach to your ship. Gunpods range from a Vulcan cannon to missiles to a spread gun, and each has a limited amount of ammo. Once you run out of ammo, that gunpod goes bye-bye. The really unique thing is how the manipulator arm works. Since your gunpods work independently of your main gun, you can change the configuration of the gunpods to do different things. Like you can move the Vulcan from the top of the ship, where it fires forward, to the bottom, where it will fire diagonally forward-bottom. Some ships have multiple gunpods, which means you can have one on the top and one at the bottom. It really adds more of a strategic element to the game that would otherwise be like most other shooters out there.
Rating: 8.0

Replayability
This is the type of game where, under normal circumstances, I’d play it once and then put it down forever. But they add a lot of incentive to play more and more. They do this by adding in bonuses to make you keep playing. The main bonus is the gallery, where you can unlock rendered images of the gunpods simply by getting that gunpod once. You can also get additional images by winning the game on one of its three difficulties. But probably a bigger incentive is unlocking new ships rather than the original 3. That’s what will really get people to play again.
Rating: 8.0

Balance
Thank you sir, may I have another! I know I probably have said it before, but shooters are one of the genres (like real time strategy games) where I really enjoy playing, but I’m not very good at them. That being said, this game was HARD for me. Even on easy, it was hard. It starts out hard, and gets even harder. That’s really the only reason for low pointage here. I think if there is a difficulty that says “Easy”, that means there should be little challenge, at least until the later stages of the game. With this game, the challenge starts early and never stops. This isn’t a good game for the easily frustrated.
Rating: 5.0

Originality
I have to give them credit for a) going into a genre where they haven’t ventured before and b) making it 3D. Despite that, it’s a shooter, and as such, plays like a shooter to the core. It does have the unique aspects of being able to configure your gunpods in different ways, but that doesn’t make it so different that it doesn’t feel like an average shooter.
Rating: 6.5

Addictiveness
This is a game where, when you start out, you think, “Hey, this is cool!” Then you die. You still like it, and keep playing, but the more you play, and the more you die, the more frustrated you become. The more frustrated you become, the less enjoyable the game is, and the less you want to play it. That being said, there are still a lot of cool things about the game that kept me coming back, like the hopes of increasing my galleries and the cool big bosses.
Rating: 5.0

Appeal Factor
In all honesty, there aren’t many people who would want to play this game. Shooters themselves are somewhat in the past, and there are few still produced. Those that are produced, like Ikaruga, are snapped up by those who could be considered “hardcore” and/or “old school”. So because of that, most people wouldn’t get this game simply because it wouldn’t interest them in the least. Hell, I would only recommend it to die hard shooter fans, simply because of the difficulty. No one else should bother, because it’s not a good shooting game to cut your teeth on.
Rating: 3.0

Miscellaneous
I am sometimes critically harsh on companies for trying to be different when they needn’t be. Companies have a hard time figuring out that when some things work, you go with them, but not all the time, because it doesn’t always work. Apparently Square had a similar problem, because they made this game, which was pretty successful, and then they made Ehrgeiz and the Bouncer and Driving Emotion Type S. All are games that are out of their realm, and none of them could even remotely be considered successful. But I’m not reviewing those games. So I’m giving credit to Square for thinking outside the box and making a game that is so different from anything they’ve done previously, yet still a great game.
Rating: 9.0

Ratings Summary

Story: 7.0
Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 8.5
Control: 8.0
Replayability: 8.0
Balance: 5.0
Originality: 6.5
Addictiveness: 5.0
Appeal Factor: 3.0
Miscellaneous: 9.0

Average: 6.85

THE 411: This is a very good game. I’m probably not the best person to review a shooting game, simply because I’m not that good at them, but despite that, I still enjoyed the game. If the difficulty were lowered, then maybe I would have had more enjoyment out of it. But overall, it was a fun game and one that I’ll pick up again over time, which is more than can be said about a lot of games I own. But I want to reiterate that it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a hard game, unless you’re really good at these things.

Final Score: 7.0


Anime/Manga News

Katsucon License Announcements

If you’re anything like me, you get excited whenever a new convention occurs, simply because those are the times that most companies announce which licenses they have picked up. And Katsucon is no different. Here are some announcements that came out of the con:

Bandai: Licensed “Zentrix”, a CGI show. Discontinued Eatman, Haunted Junction and Dark Soldier D. Also announced that .hack//Twilight will be 3 discs in length.

Media Blasters: Licensed anime “Knight Hunters Eternity”, “Saber Marionette R” and “Yakumo Tatsu”. Licensed manga “Skyscrapers of Oz”.
Credit: Anime on DVD


Anime/Manga Press Releases

Love Doll Volume 2

Critical Mass Video has announced their latest volume in the hentai series, Love Doll, subtitled “The Rose Room”. The series continues with Rachel, the Love Doll in training, being “trained” by her Uncle, all while she is worried that the love of her life is engaged with her best friend. On top of that, she runs across one of her past tormentors while in a brothel. Oddly enough, this series is one that seems to have a lot of depth despite the content.

Keep in mind that this is an adult show, and any of you kids under 18 don’t get to see good stuff like that, so neener neener!


Anime Releases

Release Dates provided by Anime on DVD. See past releases at my website.

February 17, 2004

TITLE
STUDIO
MSRP
BUY TSRI
BUY ACS
Angelic Layer Vol. #4
ADV
$29.95
$26.98
$21.98
Full Metal Panic Vol. #7
ADV
$29.95
$26.98
$21.98
Ninja Scroll TV Vol. #2
Urban Vision
$24.95
$22.96
$18.98
Pretear Vol. #3
ADV
$29.98
$26.98
$21.98
Saiyuki Vol. #8
ADV
$29.98
$26.98
$21.98
Slayers Gorgeous
ADV
$19.98
$17.98
$14.98
Witch Hunter Robin Vol. #3
Bandai
$29.98
$26.98
$23.98
Yu Yu Hakusho Vol. #21
FUNimation
$24.95
$17.98
$18.98
Yukikaze Vol. #1
Bandai
$29.98
$26.98
$23.98
Yukikaze Vol. #1 (Limited Edition)
Bandai
$39.98
$35.98
$34.98

Note: In the above table, TSRI stands for The Right Stuf International and ACS stands for Robert’s Anime Corner Store. (H) means Hentai, so Adults Only on those!

Comments: This is a big ADV week, and there are some pretty big releases as well. ADV is releasing the latest Angelic Layer, Saiyuki and Pretear. In addition, we have the last disc of Full Metal Panic and the 4th Slayers movie. Bandai has the latest Witch Hunter Robin, as well as their latest show to get the Limited Edition treatment, Yukikaze. And Urban Vision has the latest Ninja Scroll and FUNimation the latest in the very long Yu Yu Hakusho series. The release of the week has to be Yukikaze, which not only looks very well animated, but the LE release includes a bonus disc and a flight patch.


Anime Review

Ok, this week, things are going to be a little different. Since I had the game review earlier, the column is a little bit longer than normal. In addition, I have a few single disc releases that I need to review, but I haven’t sat down and really decided HOW I wanted to review them. So this is going to be a quickie review. No breakdowns or anything, just thoughts. I will review this title in the future, once I do have the review scheme set the way I want it, but I probably will just post that straight to my site to save room in the column for something new and fresh. So here it is, enjoy!

SORCERER HUNTERS OVA

Sorcerer Hunters is a series that is near and dear to my heart. Sure, it’s really messed up, and the characters are all a bunch of wack jobs, but that’s really what makes the series great. You’ve got the lecherous leader of the group, two hot girls (who are sisters) who want him (but he doesn’t want), a big strong guy and a magic guy. Oh, and the sisters can turn into super forms that have leather and are naughty. Oh yea, and the leader can absorb magic energy and turn into a super form himself, though his is a giant bull-like beast that can only be calmed by the whip of one of the two sisters. Fucked up to say the least.

The OVA is not really an extension of the TV series so much as an alternate reality side-story, kinda. Apparently, the OVA is more faithful to the manga than the original series is, and thus there are several changes. For one thing, there is a pixie-type girl named Dotta who is small in the series, but regular sized in the OVA. Also, since the OVA was never to be aired on TV, they included a lot more fan service than in the original series, including a fair amount of nudity.

The OVA is good, but rather hard to follow, even having watched the TV series. I would suggest seeing it prior to the OVA, simply because there is very little character development, and it’s hard to get excited about a group of people when you don’t know who they are. That being said, this is a must for any Sorcerer Hunter fan because it IS the same characters and their voices and everything are the same, plus it’s a whole lot of fun.


Links to the Past

Thank God It’s Thursday News Report – Bryan Berg
Bryan celebrates his 1 year anniversary as a news reporter! I celebrate my own in about a month. As one of the “oldies”, I guess, I have to say that it has been an honor and a privilege to work with Bryan over the past year. He’s an excellent writer and a brilliant mind. Here’s to another year, Bryan!

The Angry Gamer – Liquidcross
What’s wrong with this picture? Lately I’ve been agreeing with Liquid! This week, he talks about how lately, many RPGs have been so very dull, and equates it with the move to 3D graphics. I agree with that to a point. Some companies (like Square) have gotten themselves to a point where the graphics take priority, and that’s really not the way it should be. We KNOW they do good graphics, so make the games good! Lately, they’ve been moving in the right direction, so hopefully games will continue to get better!

411MAX: News News Revolution – Alex Williams
Alex (aka The Norwegian Athlete) proves that he is a DDR God. He is certainly better at it than I will ever be, at the very least. But that’s not saying much. He also wraps up the week’s news better than anyone else, and he reminds you to flush your toilets! Please do, because it stinks otherwise.

Retrograding – Alex Lucard
Numbers 27-25 in Lucard’s top 30 RPG countdown. This week, he gives some mad love to Super Hydlide, Bard’s Tale and Disgaea. He also gives me some props on some of my reviews! That’s pretty sweet, though I don’t know if I deserve it, but I’ll take it nonetheless.

Gamer’s Hangover News Report – Cory Laflin
Cory gives some great dieting tips, along with dishing out news about Resident Evil 4 and EA eating up another company.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Video Games – Misha
Misha gives us news on developer response to the Nintendo DS, the new Sabre Wulf game, as well as including a very thought provoking IM with Freddie B.

A Thumb to the Eye – Chuck Platt
Chuck writes about Mario’s ever growing list of jobs he’s had over the years, as well as starting you out on a path to importing games. In addition, he says I have that special something. I think that special something is gas. But thanks for the great compliments Chuck! I appreciate it greatly, especially coming from one of the funniest guys I’ve ever read.

And of course, I’d be remiss in pimping the one, the only, Eric S. I don’t know why he keeps pimping me. I pimp him because he deserves it. I certainly don’t, especially not last week. But thanks anyway Eric!


Can you believe it? Seriously, can you even believe this? No, you aren’t in some bizarro world. Yes, the games section ended up being longer than the anime section this week. Blame that on the game review and lack of anime news. And yes, this report should be available at midnight of Wednesday, since I’m finishing it up a little after midnight on Tuesday, a full 24 hours before it’s due, like I did in the old days. Hopefully I’ll stick with it. Enjoy your week and come back next week! And thanks for reading!